Thirty minutes had gone by before Shelby’s head stopped spinning and she ran out of tears, her breathing heavy from not being able to inhale through her nose. Wiping her tears with both palms, she looked at the tattoos on her left hand. Years ago three of her fingers had been beautifully detailed with three rings, including her index, ring, and pinky finger. Each ring appeared to be just an outline. Every bone from those three fingers, along with some of her hand, and all of her left arm had been tattooed with the finest of skill using only black ink. Shelby had died earning her tattoos, now only to find herself dying once again, but this time there did not seem to be an end in sight, and she’d never felt so hopelessly lost. With thoughts of death and dying in the front of her mind, Shelby could not stop what was next; she could not help but think about how terribly much she missed her mother. Sadly, her mother had passed away several years ago from injuries sustained during an automobile accident; shortly after she had first begun dating Gabriel. Although never a racist woman, her mother had grown up during a period of racial unrest throughout the city, and the entire nation. Shelby concluded that her loving mother must have been considering those life experiences when she stressed to her daughter the difficulties and challenges the couple would be facing, her daughter being of Italian descent, and Gabriel being Hispanic. Shelby’s mother had continually asked her to stop seeing Gabriel, right up until the day before her untimely death. Shortly before her passing, the two women had conversed about men and relationships. Something her late mother had said that day while they enjoyed lunch together still echoed in her head.

“Shelby baby…a real man is a man who will wipe your tears…you must not settle for this man…don’t settle Shelby… please do not settle!”

Switching back and forth between English and Italian, her mother had said these words over and over the day before the accident; as if she was already pleading with her daughter from her own death bed. Shelby had definitely not yet found the man her mother had promised her. Not only would Gabriel not wipe her tears, but crying only made him angrier. Sometimes both of his teenagers would join in on the pain, teasing her at will, even when their father was in the same room. Instead of scolding, or even correcting his children, he seemed to encourage their wicked and cruel behavior.

“Death would be better…I don’t underst…”

Cutting her words short, Shelby looked through the open bathroom door towards the bedroom and shivered. Once again, she could not shake off a terrible paranoid feeling. A movement caught her eye, and she glanced over her shoulder towards the medicine cabinet. Holding her breath; she froze, her eyes fixed on the mirror, and the reflection within it, a reflection that should not be there. 

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